NISKAYUNA, N.Y., July 11 --GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of General Electric, has announced what it calls a breakthrough in a new lighting technology that has the potential to be more energy efficient and to "revolutionize" lighting design with the same high-quality white light as traditional light sources.
GE's new technology is based on organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are thin sheets of plastic-like material that emit light when powered by electricity. While the technology is still five to ten years away from commercialization, the GE research team recently overcame one of the significant technical hurdles, fault tolerance for large-area devices; details were published in the April 21, 2003 issue of Applied Physics magazine. The latest development, which was partially funded by a research contract from the US Department of Energy, is a major step forward in creating this new form of solid-state lighting, the company said.
OLEDs are a form of solid-state lighting, an alternative to traditional LEDs composed of inorganic materials. The vision of the GE program is to create sheets of paper-thin lighting devices that can be applied to surfaces, similar to wallpapering.
To overcome fault tolerance, the short-circuiting of the unit in large-area devices, GE's researchers divided the large surface area into separate smaller sections, with crisscross connections between anodes and cathodes. In the resulting serial circuit, if a short circuit occurs in a section, it won't affect the rest of the device. Earlier approaches to OLEDs featured a design more like a parallel circuit, in which a short-circuit at any point would cause the whole device to fail. The increase in fault tolerance is an important proof-of-concept that can lead to large-scale OLED devices, GE said.
GE said OLED devices could potentially outperform conventional lighting technologies, but serious scientific challenges remain -- such as increasing the overall surface area, energy efficiency, flexibility of the material, developing a roll-to-roll manufacturing process and extending the operative lifespan of OLED devices.
The project is co-sponsored by the Department of Energy's Building Technologies Program (DOE/BT) and the National Energy Technology Laboratory, through its competitive research and development program. The goal of the DOE/BT's Lighting R&D Program is to develop viable technologies having the technical potential to conserve 50 percent of lighting consumption by 2010. The program works with industry, utilities, universities and research institutions to create energy efficient lighting technologies in pursuit of this goal.
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